Sarawak kabaddi team eyes podium finish on home turf in Sukma 2024

Sarawak kabaddi athletes with Muttiah at a recent tournament in 2023. Photo credit: Sarawak Kabaddi Association

By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, Jan 5: From its humble beginning over 20 years ago in Sarawak, the contact team sport of kabaddi has developed into one of the most promising games introduced as its players are working hard for a podium finish at this year’s Sukma hosted by the State.

Kabaddi Association of Malaysia vice president Muttiah Pillai VP Sinnathambi revealed that since 2002, the Sarawak team is now well respected and among the elite players in the sport.


Muttiah said the quick development of athletes in the sport is attributed to the dedicated coaches, the many local, national, and international tournaments held over the years, and the Sarawak government’s support.

“It is very encouraging to see that this ancient sport from India played thousands of years ago appeared as a demo sport in the 1936 Olympic Games and is now accepted globally, especially here in Sarawak and Malaysia. Even more impressive is that Sarawak athletes are on the national team briefly.

“We are on the right path. I know this because I was personally involved since the sport was first introduced in the Indian Association Kuching Sports Carnival in Kuching in 2002,” he told DayakDaily.

Muttiah Pillai VP Sinnathambi

Muttiah, also the Sarawak Kabbadi Association president, reminisced that once the association had set up the infrastructure for the sport in terms of coaches, officials, and game venue, they organised their first competition involving 38 teams in 2007.

“The following year, Sarawak took part in the demo game of Sukma 2008 but lost in the group stage. We were new and lost to Wilayah Persekutuan and Kedah but won against Pahang. It was a learning period, but we were motivated to improve.”

Muttiah elaborated that since then, Sarawak has continued building the sport and its athletes since 2009.

“We pat ourselves on our shoulders as we got our coaches trained, better facilities, organised local competitions, and participated in invitational games in other states in Malaysia, the Sukma games, and international meets and games.

“So, in the last 21 years since the sport arrived on Sarawak’s shore, we are proud that we had made it,” he said.

Being a Sarawakian, Muttiah revealed that he is proud to be given trust in developing the sport, holding a position at the national association level and even made a team manager for the Under-21 Kabaddi World Junior Championship in Tehran, Iran, from Jan 20 to March 5, 2023.

He hoped that with good athletes and more Sarawakians in the national team combined with good coaches, kabaddi would be continuously accepted in the State.

“I hope people will look past the perception that this game is only for the Indian community, as we have proved that this is a sport played by all races.

“Despite being new here, if you dive into the sport and know the rules of the games, you can enjoy it. We also believe that is why it has been overwhelmingly liked and accepted.”

He added that he plans to create more fan clubs to support the sport and request upgraded training facilities, and he wants a divisional-level competition to reduce costs and provide a platform for players to measure their skills.

“In the past, Sarawak players were not as skilled as players from Peninsular Malaysia, but now our players are equal to and able to challenge them.

“I am confident with the support received for the game, we can be a powerhouse, and becoming the champion in Sukma 2024 is the ultimate target for us now,” he said.

Kabaddi originated in ancient India and is played between two teams of seven players. The objective of the game is for a single player on offence, referred to as a ‘raider’, to run into the opposing team’s half of the court, touch out as many of their players as possible, and return to their half of the court, without being tackled by the defenders in 30 seconds.

Points are scored for each player tagged by the raider, while the opposing team earns a point for stopping the raider. Players are taken out of the game if they are touched or tackled but are brought back in for each point scored by their team from a tag or a tackle. — DayakDaily

The Sarawak women’s kabaddi team during a tournament. Photo credit: Sarawak Kabaddi Association